The House overcame its earmark ban to pass a bill. Here’s who gets paid.

October 24, 2013

The Port of Miami (Mark Elias/Bloomberg)

The House on Wednesday broke a long dry spell, passing a bill that would send billions of dollars to water-related projects around the country.

For about three decades, Congress passed a bill roughly every two years that updated the nation’s water infrastructure. It would authorize projects to improve the nation’s ports, protect against storm damage and allow environmental restoration, among other things. But the last one passed in 2007. The Senate passed a new version in May, but the House had a hurdle to overcome: its self-imposed ban on funding lawmakers’ pet projects.

The problem is that the typical water infrastructure bill, known as the Water Resources Development Act, authorizes a lot of specific projects. Flood control in Compton, Calif.? Sure. Environmental restoration in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park? Why not? (Those were both in the last WRDA bill.) Upgrading the crumbling infrastructure at some of the nation’s economically vital ports? Of course.

The bill the House passed last night circumvents that earmark ban, though, at least to leadership. Rather than Congress choosing which projects to fund, it authorizes a number of projects recommended in reports sent to Congress by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Since 2007, the Army Corps has made 23 such recommendations — part of a longstanding practice. And yesterday’s House bill authorizes 21 of them, along with two completed but pending reports. The total cost, according to the House-passed bill, is nearly $8 billion.

Florida is home to six authorized projects, more than any other state. North Carolina and Louisiana each has three. California, Texas and Minnesota each has two. Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi and North Dakota are each home to one project.

The projects account for nearly 90 percent of the bill’s cost through 2018, according to the an analysis this week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Implementing the bill will cost $3.5 billion from 2014 to 2018 and $4.7 billion over the next four years, CBO reported.

Here’s a table of the 23 projects along with their cost estimates and the purpose they’re supposed to serve:

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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Niraj Chokshi · October 24, 2013